Bayou Folk
Category: Novels
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Bayou Folk is a collection of short stories based chiefly in Louisiana written by early feminist writer Kate Chopin. The stories in the book take place where Chopin lived herself. The themes often seem to mimic Chopin's ideals, including rebellion and fighting back against socioeconomic status. Read how life was in the South for a feminist in the late 1800s in this powerful collection.

Bayou Folk

Kate Chopin

Bayou Folk

A No-Account Creole


One agreeable afternoon in late autumn two young men stood together on Canal Street, closing a conversation that had evidently begun within the club-house which they had just quitted.

“There’s big money in it, Offdean,” said the elder of the two. “I would n’t have you touch it if there was n’t. Why, they tell me Patchly ’s pulled a hundred thousand out of the concern a’ready.”

“That may be,” replied Offdean, who had been politely attentive to the words addressed to him, but whose face bore a look indicating that he was closed to conviction. He leaned back upon the clumsy stick which he carried, and continued: “It’s all true, I dare say, Fitch; but a decision of that sort would mean more to me than you’d believe if I were to tell you. The beggarly twenty-five thousand’s all I have, and I want to sleep with it under my pillow a couple of months at least before I drop it into a slot.”

“You’ll drop it into Harding & Offdean’s mill to grind out the pitiful two and a half per cent commission racket; that’s what you’ll do in the end, old fellow—see if you don’t.”

“Perhaps I shall; but it’s more than likely I shan’t. We’ll talk about it when I get back. You know I’m off to north Louisiana in the morning”—

“No! What the deuce”—

“Oh, business of the firm.”

“Write me from Shreveport, then; or wherever it is.”

“Not so far as that. But don’t expect to hear from me till you see me. I can’t say when that will be.”

Then they shook hands and parted. The rather portly Fitch boarded a Prytania Street car, and Mr. Wallace Offdean hurried to the bank in order to replenish his portemonnaie, which had been materially lightened at the club through the medium of unpropitious jack-pots and bobtail flushes.

He was a sure-footed fellow, this young Offdean, despite an occasional fall in slippery places. What he wanted, now that he had reached his twenty-sixth year and his inheritance, was to get his feet well planted on solid ground, and to keep his head cool and clear.

With his early youth he had had certain shadowy intentions of shaping his life on intellectual lines. That is, he wanted to; and he meant to use his faculties intelligently, which means more than is at once apparent. Above all, he would keep clear of the maelstroms of sordid work and senseless pleasure in which the average American business man may be said alternately to exist, and which reduce him, naturally, to a rather ragged condition of soul.

Offdean had done, in a temperate way, the usual things which young men do who happen to belong to good society, and are possessed of moderate means and healthy instincts. He had gone to college, had traveled a little at home and abroad, had frequented society and the clubs, and had worked in his uncle’s commission-house; in all of which employments he had expended much time and a modicum of energy.

But he felt all through that he was simply in a preliminary stage of being, one that would develop later into something tangible and intelligent, as he liked to tell himself. With his patrimony of twenty-five thousand dollars came what he felt to be the turning-point in his life,—the time when it behooved him to choose a course, and to get himself into proper trim to follow it manfully and consistently.

When Messrs. Harding & Offdean determined to have some one look after what they called “a troublesome piece of land on Red River,” Wallace Offdean requested to be intrusted with that special commission of land-inspector.

A shadowy, ill-defined piece of land in an unfamiliar part of his native State, might, he hoped, prove a sort of closet into which he could retire and take counsel with his inner and better self.


What Harding & Offdean had called a piece of land on Red River was better known to the people of Natchitoches parish as “the old Santien place.”

In the days of Lucien Santien and his hundred slaves, it had been very splendid in the wealth of its thousand acres. But the war did its work, of course. Then Jules Santien was not the man to mend such damage as the war had left. His three sons were even less able than he had been to bear the weighty inheritance of debt that came to them with the dismantled plantation; so it was a deliverance to all when Harding & Offdean, the New Orleans creditors, relieved them of the place with the responsibility and indebtedness which its ownership had entailed.

Hector, the eldest, and Grégoire, the youngest of these Santien boys, had gone each his way. Placide alone tried to keep a desultory foothold upon the land which had been his and his forefathers’. But he too was given to wandering—within a radius, however, which rarely took him so far that he could not reach the old place in an afternoon of travel, when he felt so inclined.

There were acres of open land cultivated in a slovenly fashion, but so rich that cotton and corn and weed and “cocoa-grass” grew rampant if they had only the semblance of a chance. The negro quarters were at the far end of this open stretch, and consisted of a long row of old and very crippled cabins. Directly back of these a dense wood grew, and held much mystery, and witchery of sound and shadow, and strange lights when the sun shone. Of a gin-house there was left scarcely a trace; only so much as could serve as inadequate shelter to the miserable dozen cattle that huddled within it in winter-time.

A dozen rods or more from the Red River bank stood the dwelling-house, and nowhere upon the plantation had time touched so sadly as here. The steep, black, moss-covered roof sat like an extinguisher above the eight large rooms that it covered, and had come to do its office so poorly that not more than half of these were habitable when the rain fell. Perhaps the live-oaks made too thick and close a shelter about it. The verandas were long and broad and inviting; but it was well to know that the brick pillar was crumbling away under one corner, that the railing was insecure at another, and that still another had long ago been condemned as unsafe. But that, of course, was not the corner in which Wallace Offdean sat the day following his arrival at the Santien place. This one was comparatively secure. A gloire-de-Dijon, thick-leaved and charged with huge creamy blossoms, grew and spread here like a hardy vine upon the wires that stretched from post to post. The scent of the blossoms was delicious; and the stillness that surrounded Offdean agreeably fitted his humor that asked for rest. His old host, Pierre Manton, the manager of the place, sat talking to him in a soft, rhythmic monotone; but his speech was hardly more of an interruption than the hum of the bees among the roses. He was saying:—

“If it would been me myse’f, I would nevair grumb’. W’en a chimbly breck, I take one, two de boys; we patch ’im up bes’ we know how. We keep on men’ de fence’, firs’ one place, anudder; an’ if it would n’ be fer dem mule’ of Lacroix—tonnerre! I don’ wan’ to talk ‘bout dem mule’. But me, I would n’ grumb’. It’s Euphrasie, hair. She say dat’s all fool nonsense fer rich man lack Hardin’-Offde’n to let a piece o’ lan’ goin’ lack dat.”

“Euphrasie?” questioned Offdean, in some surprise; for he had not yet heard of any such person.

“Euphrasie, my li’le chile. Escuse me one minute,” Pierre added, remembering that he was in his shirt-sleeves, and rising to reach for his coat, which hung upon a peg near by. He was a small, square man, with mild, kindly face, brown and roughened from healthy exposure. His hair hung gray and long beneath the soft felt hat that he wore. When he had seated himself, Offdean asked:—

“Where is your little child? I have n’t seen her,” inwardly marveling that a little child should have uttered such words of wisdom as those recorded of her.

“She yonder to Mme. Duplan on Cane River. I been kine espectin’ hair sence yistiday—hair an’ Placide,” casting an unconscious glance down the long plantation road. “But Mme. Duplan she nevair want to let Euphrasie go. You know it’s hair raise’ Euphrasie sence hair po’ ma die’, Mr. Offde’n. She teck dat li’le chile, an’ raise it, sem lack she raisin’ Ninette. But it’s mo’ ‘an a year now Euphrasie say dat’s all fool nonsense to leave me livin’ ‘lone lack dat, wid nuttin’ ‘cep’ dem nigger’—an’ Placide once a w’ile. An’ she came yair bossin’! My goodness!” The old man chuckled, “Dat’s hair been writin’ all dem letter’ to Hardin’-Offde’n. If it would been me myse’f”—


Placide seemed to have had a foreboding of ill from the start when he found that Euphrasie began to interest herself in the condition of the plantation. This ill feeling voiced itself partly when he told her it was none of her lookout if the place went to the dogs. “It’s good enough for Joe Duplan to run things en grand seigneur, Euphrasie; that’s w’at’s spoiled you.”

Placide might have done much single-handed to keep the old place in better trim, if he had wished. For there was no one more clever than he to do a hand’s turn at any and every thing. He could mend a saddle or bridle while he stood whistling a tune. If a wagon required a brace or a bolt, it was nothing for him to step into a shop and turn out one as deftly as the most skilled blacksmith. Any one seeing him at work with plane and rule and chisel would have declared him a born carpenter. And as for mixing paints, and giving a fine and lasting coat to the side of a house or barn, he had not his equal in the country.

This last talent he exercised little in his native parish. It was in a neighboring one, where he spent the greater part of his time, that his fame as a painter was established. There, in the village of Orville, he owned a little shell of a house, and during odd times it was Placide’s great delight to tinker at this small home, inventing daily new beauties and conveniences to add to it. Lately it had become a precious possession to him, for in the spring he was to bring Euphrasie there as his wife.

Maybe it was because of his talent, and his indifference in turning it to good, that he was often called “a no-account creole” by thriftier souls than himself. But no-account creole or not, painter, carpenter, blacksmith, and whatever else he might be at times, he was a Santien always, with the best blood in the country running in his veins. And many thought his choice had fallen in very low places when he engaged himself to marry little Euphrasie, the daughter of old Pierre Manton and a problematic mother a good deal less than nobody.

Placide might have married almost any one, too; for it was the easiest thing in the world for a girl to fall in love with him,—- sometimes the hardest thing in the world not to, he was such a splendid fellow, such a careless, happy, handsome fellow. And he did not seem to mind in the least that young men who had grown up with him were lawyers now, and planters, and members of Shakespeare clubs in town. No one ever expected anything quite so humdrum as that of the Santien boys. As youngsters, all three had been the despair of the country school-master; then of the private tutor who had come to shackle them, and had failed in his design. And the state of mutiny and revolt that they had brought about at the college of Grand Coteau when their father, in a moment of weak concession to prejudice, had sent them there, is a thing yet remembered in Natchitoches.

And now Placide was going to marry Euphrasie. He could not recall the time when he had not loved her. Somehow he felt that it began the day when he was six years old, and Pierre, his father’s overseer, had called him from play to come and make her acquaintance. He was permitted to hold her in his arms a moment, and it was with silent awe that he did so. She was the first white-faced baby he remembered having seen, and he straightway believed she had been sent to him as a birthday gift to be his little play-mate and friend. If he loved her, there was no great wonder; every one did, from the time she took her first dainty step, which was a brave one, too.

She was the gentlest little lady ever born in old Natchitoches parish, and the happiest and merriest. She never cried or whimpered for a hurt. Placide never did, why should she? When she wept, it was when she did what was wrong, or when he did; for that was to be a coward, she felt. When she was ten, and her mother was dead, Mme. Duplan, the Lady Bountiful of the parish, had driven across from her plantation, Les Chêniers, to old Pierre’s very door, and there had gathered up this precious little maid, and carried her away, to do with as she would.

And she did with the child much as she herself had been done by. Euphrasie went to the convent soon, and was taught all gentle things, the pretty arts of manner and speech that the ladies of the “Sacred Heart” can teach so well. When she quitted them, she left a trail of love behind her; she always did.

Placide continued to see her at intervals, and to love her always. One day he told her so; he could not help it. She stood under one of the big oaks at Les Chêniers. It was midsummer time, and the tangled sunbeams had enmeshed her in a golden fret-work. When he saw her standing there in the sun’s glamour, which was like a glory upon her, he trembled. He seemed to see her for the first time. He could only look at her, and wonder why her hair gleamed so, as it fell in those thick chestnut waves about her ears and neck. He had looked a thousand times into her eyes before; was it only to-day they held that sleepy, wistful light in them that invites love? How had he not seen it before? Why had he not known before that her lips were red, and cut in fine, strong curves? that her flesh was like cream? How had he not seen that she was beautiful? “Euphrasie,” he said, taking her hands,—“Euphrasie, I love you!”

She looked at him with a little astonishment. “Yes; I know, Placide.” She spoke with the soft intonation of the creole.

“No, you don’t, Euphrasie. I did n’ know myse’f how much tell jus’ now.”

Perhaps he did only what was natural when he asked her next if she loved him. He still held her hands. She looked thoughtfully away, unready to answer.

“Do you love anybody better?” he asked jealously. “Any one jus’ as well as me?” “You know I love papa better, Placide, an’ Maman Duplan jus’ as well.”

Yet she saw no reason why she should not be his wife when he asked her to.

Only a few months before this, Euphrasie had returned to live with her father. The step had cut her off from everything that girls of eighteen call pleasure. If it cost her one regret, no one could have guessed it. She went often to visit the Duplans, however; and Placide had gone to bring her home from Les Chêniers the very day of Offdean’s arrival at the plantation.

They had traveled by rail to Natchitoches, where they found Pierre’s no-top buggy awaiting them, for there was a drive of five miles to be made through the pine woods before the plantation was reached. When they were at their journey’s end, and had driven some distance; up the long plantation road that led to the house in the rear, Euphrasie exclaimed:—

“W’y, there’s some one on the gall’ry with papa, Placide!”

“Yes; I see.”

“It looks like some one f’om town. It mus’ be Mr. Gus Adams; but I don’ see his horse.”

“‘T ain’t no one f’om town that I know. It’s boun’ to be some one f’om the city.”

“Oh, Placide, I should n’ wonder if Harding & Offdean have sent some one to look after the place at las’,” she exclaimed a little excitedly.

They were near enough to see that the stranger was a young man of very pleasing appearance. Without apparent reason, a chilly depression took hold of Placide.

“I tole you it was n’ yo’ lookout f’om the firs’, Euphrasie,” he said to her.


Wallace Offdean remembered Euphrasie at once as a young person whom he had assisted to a very high perch on his club-house balcony the previous Mardi Gras night. He had thought her pretty and attractive then, and for the space of a day or two wondered who she might be. But he had not made even so fleeting an impression upon her; seeing which, he did not refer to any former meeting when Pierre introduced them.

She took the chair which he offered her, and asked him very simply when he had come, if his journey had been pleasant, and if he had not found the road from Natchitoches in very good condition.

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